We all know how time-consuming digital content marketing can be. There are only so many hours in the day that you can spend promoting your brand on social media, and only so many dollars you can pay someone else to do it for you. Online influencer outreach presents an opportunity to broaden your digital content marketing reach. But is it worth it?

Online Influencer Outreach: A Primer

In short, influencer outreach involves “persuading influential leaders, even celebrities, to promote your brand.”

This persuasive strategy is by no means new–you’ve spent your entire life watching a parade of celebrities promote everything from mascara to minivans. Maybe you’ve even been convinced by some of them. I know I have (I’m looking at you, sad corner of celebrity-endorsed fitness equipment).

When we’re talking online influencer outreach, the tactics stay the same, but the execution varies a bit. Instead of convincing a leading lady to star in a commercial, you might be sending some of your goods to noted bloggers in hopes that they’ll consider reviewing and recommending your brand to their audiences. Or maybe you’re working to forge a digital relationship with a thought leader who carries a large twitter following. The possibilities are many and varied–online influencers are far more accessible than Hollywood royalty. On the other hand, their reach is significantly smaller. So is it even worth the fuss?

When Influencers Don’t… Influence.

Many argue that too much energy is squandered on online influencer outreach. As Jay Baer, president of Convince and Convert, points out, while the outreach may prove effective for generating a buzz about your brand, it often fails at motivating consumers to act on it. Why?

First, we tend to confuse audience with influence. Having a lot of Twitter followers or a “large” blog readership doesn’t inherently make a person influential in any way. It gives them an audience. True influence drives action, not just awareness, and very few online demi-celebrities have enough juice to drive action in droves.

In other words, while increased awareness of your brand’s existence is certainly a good thing, it’s not enough. And in many cases, it may be all that influencer endorsements amount to. Baer goes on to point out that the other issue he sees with online influencer outreach is believability. Potential new audiences must believe that the influencer actually cares about your brand in some meaningful way… that it’s about more than thinly-veiled advertising. The good news? It can be.

Selective Online Influencer Outreach

If an influencer is going to convincingly advocate for your brand, the link between their sphere and yours must be believable. Kristen Matthews at GroupHigh suggests a helpful formula made up of three factors when considering where to target your influencer outreach: content fit, reach, and engagement.

  • Content fit: Matthews suggests practical tips such as browsing tags and perusing About/FAQ content on to determine whether any commonalities exist between your brand and a potential influencer. Consider whether the intended audience may align with your target audience, too. In any case, prize the potential for relationship building as a result of genuine common ground over the draw of a sparkling site that just doesn’t realistically fit with your brand.

  • Reach: When determining how much reach a potential influencer has, balance it against what you’re able to offer. If the influencer has an outsized reach compared to the compensation that is realistic and feasible when considering ROI, you’ll have to keep looking. Take heart, though. Matthews insists: “Don’t forget the value of the mid-level influencer. Data has actually shown that a smaller audience means more authority and ability to create engagement.”

  • Engagement: Does the potential influencer update content often, inspire engagement from their audience, and stay relevant? Or are you seeing a poorly-maintained website that does not seem to generate much discussion amongst readers? You know a lively, appealing website when you see one. Gauging the level of engagement a potential influencer generates allows you to cue into how successful a campaign with them might go.

The Takeaway

In all of your efforts to craft sincere influencer relationships, don’t forget about the sincerest of them all: your relationship to your own loyal customers. Baer suggests that the best way to spur new audiences to action is to start with those who would already happily advocate for your brand. He notes that “the FIRST part of your influence campaign should be to find those raving fans, get them into the same online room (and hopefully, offline too) and give them the sandbox and the encouragement to become volunteer ambassadors.” Don’t underestimate the power of your customers’ word, or the reach of their opinions. Keep this in mind as you consider if online influencer outreach is right for you.

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